America might have New York but England has "old" York! These days the cities may seem worlds apart, but the common naming says something about the significance of an English town that was once second place London in both population and status. An ancient cathedral city with a back story entrenched in pre-Roman times, George VI famously referred to York as “the history of England”. These days, York's medieval streets have more of a provincial feel to them, but the city's rich heritage is still on full display within the ancient grounds of York's formidable wall.
The list runs long when it comes to things to do in York. The most obvious place to start is York Minster, one of the largest churches of its kind in Northern England. From here, enjoy a wander through the medieval city to some of York's oldest streets: Stonegate and the Shambles. A great trip for families is a visit to Jorvik, York's very own Viking Museum, or an enchanting amble around the York Maze. To learn more about the city's history, pop by the York Castle Museum and the National Railway Museum.
As one of the most "traditional" English cities, York is possibly the best place to sample classic British fare. In Yorkshire, even more essential than drinking a pint of beer is drinking a pot of tea. You'll find a fine leafy brew at Betty's, one of the UK's quintessential tea rooms. Pubs and inns are mostly traditionally inclined in York, but recent years have also seen the city embrace the craft beer trend. Among the number of local pubs now championing local microbreweries, the Golden Ball and The House of Trembling Madness top the list.
Where to Stay
From regal hotels reflecting York's heritage such as Cedar Court Grand Hotel to chain hotels like the Best Western, you are well catered for when it comes to deciding where to stay in York. As with most destinations, the further out from the city means the cheaper the room, and the outer-lying suburbs of York are packed with Bed and Breakfasts and budget hotels. However, even in the city centre it's possible to find a terrific value room, including the Premier Inn, Best Western and Mercure chains. To splurge a little without breaking the bank, Wheatland’s Lodge Hotel and Mount Royale Hotel are both well worth the extra pounds.
While York is in no way your classic British shopping destination, the city is still home to a unique blend of high-street chain stores and boutique shops. Gillygate and Low Petergate are two of the city's favourite shopping streets, while Coppergate and Monks Cross are the two major shopping centres in town. More interesting independent stores can be found at Walmgate and Fossgate, and another place worth seeking out is Earworm Records. Located just off Goodramgate, Earworm Records might have just recently opened, but the local owners have been collecting for years. These days, it's the best place in York to dig up vinyl treasures from every era.
York Like a Local
While York's local culture has gone through phases of Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman influence, some traditions show no signs of receding. You may have trouble deciphering the thick York accent, but there should be no trouble stomaching some traditional Yorkshire pudding. Sport is another proud part of local culture. In York, horse racing is where sporting tradition remains in its prime, with the York Racecourse the third most important racecourse in the country. That makes it almost as important to Yorkshire locals as the Kit-Kat, which was created in 1911 by York's own Rowntree's chocolate company.